Billy Joe Shaver: Tinsel and Rot Hall of Famer

Sometimes, the Tinsel and Rot Hall of Fame Board of Governors lets one slip through the cracks. Such is the case with the long-overdue induction of true country music outlaw Billy Joe Shaver.

I have explained why Billy Joe Shaver is cooler than you'll ever be before (and pointed you to a good career summation here), so I'll keep this relatively brief.

The first time I saw Billy Joe Shaver was completely unexpected, as he was the unadvertised opening act at Elmira's Clemens Center, where my friend Bryan and I had headed on a schoolnight in college to slip in among the elderly of Elmira to see Willie Nelson from second-row seats. Since no one was expecting Mr. Shaver and most of the crowd had rigid bedtimes, he was fighting an uphill battle. But he handled it like a champ. When the inevitable "Where's Willie?" shout came from the crowd, Mr. Shaver answered with the completely illogical but perfectly right reply, "If he was up your ass, you'd know where he was." And thus, two new Billy Joe Shaver fans were created.

Shaver's set was short that night in Elmira, but I've been lucky enough to see him a few times since and have never left disappointed. Each show has had its fair share of chaos (such as the one where he gave his drummer a few bucks and told him to leave if he wanted to...he did) and an equal amount of brilliance. There are probably a handful of people whose shows leave me as happy as Mr. Shaver's do, and none of them feature a man in his late 60s shadow boxing and shaking with the fervor of a Pentecostal preacher.

Mr. Shaver was recently indicted on felony charges for allegedly shooting a guy at a bar in Lorena, Texas (Dale Watson wrote a song about it and what Mr. Shaver allegedly asked the man he shot). I aint saying he did it, and if he did, I aint saying it's right. What I am saying is that this incident and about a thousand others prove that Billy Joe Shaver is a bona fide badass.

And now he is a member of the Tinsel and Rot Hall of Fame.

Here are some YouTube clips of Billy Joe in action:

"Georgia on a Fast Train" (with his late son Eddy)

"Black Rose"

"Try and Try Again"

Billy Joe the storyteller


Kids today

I like to check my college newspaper's website on a fairly regular basis to see what the college kids are up to these days. So, as my body recovered from the physical abuse inflicted upon it by a floor hockey game and was reminded that it is not in college-age shape anymore (though, to be fair, it probably wasn't in college-age shape in college either), I clicked on over and found this (and watched the accompanying video).

Oh brother. I'm not sure I've ever been more ashamed to be an alumnus. And that's saying a lot.

The two quotes that best capture my reasons for shame are:

“Most people I saw [during the game] thought it was awesome and wanted to join or hear more about it,” he said. “Some of them just thought it was silly, and I only saw one person who ever got angry.”


“I was very psyched about battling zombies,” he said. “It’s a good thing for people to come together on campus. You know, you see someone walking around campus with a Nerf gun and you just say hi or someone you don’t know starts chasing you across campus. It’s pretty fun.”

During my college days, I can assure you that if 160 people were running around campus with bandanas tied around their arms and hands and brandishing Nerf guns, most people I know wouldn't have thought, "Hey, that's awesome! Where can I join in on this crazy good time?" And if I had known that having someone you don't know chase you around campus was fun, I imagine my college dating experience would've gone a lot more smoothly.

Kids today.


And another thing...

This doesn't quite fit in the "Hey, Douchebag" category, but I think the people of the world need to be made aware that the phrase "I came all the way from..." shouldn't come out of a person's mouth unless it's taken you more than three hours to get to the show.

I bring this up because I saw Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin, and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith in New Brunswick tonight and as I was leaving I was surprised to see the 95-year-old Perkins outside signing autographs for people. I dashed back inside to buy a CD and came back to find the same guy still talking to Mr. Perkins and finishing off his moment by saying that he "came all the way from Philadelphia" for the show.

First of all, that's about a 90-minute drive, almost all of which is highway. That's not that big of a feat. Unless, of course, you travel exclusively on horseback. I did not see any hay or salt licks outside the State Theatre, though, so I'm assuming a car was involved. Theoretically, I assume the gentleman could've arrived by train, but I tend to think I'm the only person in America who crosses state lines on rails to go to shows. Even if he came by train, it's still not much more than 90 minutes. And if we're using 90 minutes as the basis for using the phrase "I came all the way from..." then I could've used that every time I went to a show in Manhattan when I lived in Staten Island.

Second, I can almost guarantee Pinetop Perkins doesn't care where you came from. Don't get me wrong--he seemed like a real nice guy and I'm sure is appreciative of the fact that people come out to see him. But he's 95. He came from Austin, Texas, to play the show. Aint that a man? So, just say, "Thank you, sir. It was an honor to see you play" and get back in the car.

I'm just saying.


Earl Palmer RIP

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Earl Palmer, one of the most prolific session drummers of all time, died last Friday at the age of 83.

As impressive as Buddy Harman's résumé was, Palmer's was even better. Here's a partial list:

"Lawdy Miss Clawdy"
"Beyond the Sea"
"Let the Good Times Roll"
"My Blue Heaven"
"Tutti Frutti"
"I'm Walkin'"
"You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'"
"River Deep, Mountain High"
"La Bamba"
"Dead Man's Curve"

And that's just a start. He also played on numerous film and TV scores, probably most memorably laying down the beat for the theme song to "The Flintstones." I'm also looking for full confirmation that he played on the "Brady Bunch" theme but can't find anything definitive.

Regardless, popular music wouldn't have been the same without Earl Palmer. So, here's to you, Earl. Rest in peace.


Ten Things I Learned On My First Trip To California

1. The only thing worse than watching the Mets bullpen is following their exploits on XM Radio while you're in a JetBlue plane flying high above America with nowhere to pace.

2. Thirty minutes in Amoeba Records in San Francisco is not nearly enough time.

3. You can wear a goose costume in McAfee (or whatever it's called now that McAfee is not renewing its lease) Coliseum without arousing much suspicion.

4. Weekday afternoon baseball games in perfect weather are a beautiful thing, regardless of whether the teams playing really have anything at stake.

5. Amoeba Records in Berkeley is cool, but Rasputin's a few blocks away is just as good, if not better.

6. Schnappsie is the only dog in the world with a magic button ($4 at Rasputin's).

7. You can see a lot of cool things in San Francisco in a really short period of time and take some pretty good pictures through the windshield.

8. Traveling across the country for your friend's wedding, which is already cool because you love your friend and haven't seen her in nine years, is made exponentially cooler when the hotel is five minutes away from a mini golf course that gives you two 18-hole options and ten minutes away from Earl Anthony's Dublin Bowl, where you can bowl at 9:30 Saturday morning next to a guy wearing sunglasses, an A's jersey, and a kilt.

9. The best doughnut ever is the chocolate buttermilk doughnut fresh out of the oven at the Donut-Wheel in Livermore, CA.

10. I really miss being in college.


Charlie Walker RIP

Grand Ole Opry star Charlie Walker died Friday at the age of 81 after recently being diagnosed with colon cancer.

I will admit that I don't know much about Charlie Walker, but the fact that he recorded the undeniably awesome "Pick Me Up On Your Way Down" and made it songwriter (and Tinsel and Rot Hall of Famer) Harlan Howard's first big hit is reason enough to celebrate his life here on earth. He also recorded two songs that rank high on the list of greatest country song titles ever, "Don't Squeeze My Sharmon" and "Tell Her Lies and Feed Her Candy," the former on an album that also featured "I Wouldn't Take Her to a Dog Fight." I wish I was home to confirm that I have that album, but I'm pretty sure I do. If not, I will be seeking it out shortly.

RIP, Mr. Walker.

(photo from the Grand Ole Opry website.)


Three in Four

Three shows in four days. It went something like this:

Wednesday 9/10--Tony Clifton, BB King Blues Club, NYC

My initial excitement at seeing a listing for the return of Tony Clifton on the BB King Blues Club website a month or so ago had dissipated so much that as the workday ended on Wednesday, I wasn't really looking forward to the show anymore. Sure, I'm a big Andy Kaufman fan and thought it would be cool to see his creation come back to life (albeit as played by pal Bob Zmuda), but when I actually thought about it, I started to wonder what I was getting myself into. Watching Kaufman do Tony Clifton was one thing, but a whole show with Zmuda doing Clifton was something else entirely. Maybe, I thought, it would just suck. In fact, maybe it was supposed to suck. Maybe that was the point. But I had paid my $17, so I soldiered on.

I'm glad I did, because it's been a long time since I had that much fun at a show. Aside from the ridiculously hot dancers employed by Clifton and a band--the Katrina-Kiss-My-Ass Orchestra--that was actually pretty damn good, the endless barrage of intentionally off-key singing and absurdly offensive jokes that came out of Clifton's mouth during the three-and-a-half-hour show is something I will not soon forget. I would detail some of the jokes, but you've almost certainly heard all of them, which was sort of the point. Plus, if I wrote them down and told you that I laughed at them, you'd almost certainly think less of me. But if you already have as low an opinion of me as you think it is possible to have, stop me sometime and I'll share them with you--provided we are not in earshot of anyone else.

There were some lulls here and there, but they never lasted that long, which is a pretty good accomplishment considering the show's length. There was some of the Clifton/Kaufman "playing" with the audience (a few lit cigarettes were thrown from the stage, some tables had some drinks thrown at them), and a guy was thrown out for yelling at Clifton and giving him the finger. I know the temptation is to say that was a plant, but since he was only a few tables away, I must admit I have my doubts. I have every reason to believe the guy was legitimately hammered, and the woman he was with, who was laughing right along with him during the first set, seemed to grow weary of him after the intermission and bolted. So, maybe he wasn't a plant. Or maybe he was. Such is the genius of Tony Clifton.

Anyway, Tony Clifton's touring for at least the next few months. It's definitely worth seeing, provided you do not have a disdain for nasal warbling, off-color jokes, women in pasties, and dodging lit cigarettes. If you're cool with all that (like me...though, to be honest, I'm not all that into dodging lit cigarettes, which is why I'm glad none were thrown in my direction), you'll have a good time.

Friday 9/12--Maybe Pete CD Release Party, The Saint, Asbury Park, NJ

My mom was there. You weren't. Thus, we now have official confirmation that my mom is cooler than you. Keep trying, though. You might get there someday.

Anyway, you missed:

* Mark Linskey and the Streetcorner Matadors kicking ass in their New Jersey debut
* A special Maybe Pete acoustic performance of "This Town" (from their new CD, "Straight to Red"...heard about it?) among the crowd
* Me talking Denino's outside with two other Staten Islanders/Maybe Pete fans
* Maybe Pete's Staten Island Ferry-inspired "Someplace We've Never Been"
* Eric Safka's quantagious organ playing
* The Ramones' "Do You Remember Rock and Roll Radio?" done up right by Maybe Pete, Safka, Linskey, and Bruce Tunkel
* The postshow victory party at the Blue Swan
* A damn good time on a Friday night.

You can't keep depriving yourself of fun like this. It's bad for you. Be good to yourself.

Saturday, September 13--The Felice Brothers/AA Bondy, Maxwell's, Hoboken, NJ

I'd been trying to get to a Felice Brothers show for most of the year, so it was with a great sense of relief that Tunes in Hoboken still had a ticket left for Saturday's show even though it had already been declared sold out.

The Felice Brothers have been getting a fair share of press and acclaim lately for their live shows, and since they're from a part of the world for which I have a profound fondness (the Catskills), I was particularly interested in seeing if all the hype was true.

Conclusion? Maybe half the hype is true.

They were good enough, and there were definitely moments where they came awfully close to being great, but the ratio of "Wow!" to "Eh" ran about 1 to 5 for me. Seems to me the energy is there, but the songs aren't quite there yet (the best moments of the show, in fact, were almost exclusively covers--from spirituals like "I'm Saved" and "When I Lay My Burdens Down" to Townes Van Zandt's "Two Hands"). Still, I'll likely check them out again, and I'd say they're worth your while, too.

No pictures from the show because I was a little exhausted from the night before and a flea market in Atlantic Highlands earlier in the day to motivate myself to get to Maxwell's early.

What's that you say? A flea market in Atlantic Highlands? That's right, ladies, I'm single, heterosexual, and like going to flea markets. What are you waiting for?


And now it's time for a commercial

Fresh off their victory in the Love Hope Strength contest (as the Tinsel and Rot voting bloc goes, so goes the nation), New Jersey's pride and joy Maybe Pete will be having their CD release party for their brand-new (hence the party) "Straight to Red" disc this Friday, September 12, at The Saint in Asbury Park, NJ. And as if that weren't enough, they will be preceded on the stage by not only Bobby Strange and Agency, but also the equally Jerseriffic Mark Linskey and the Streetcorner Matadors in a rare East Coast appearance. Seriously, you'd be stupid not to go. And you don't want to be stupid, do you?

The show starts at 8. Tickets are a bargain at any price but will still only leave your wallet only $10 lighter. Tinsel and Rot money-back guarantee in full effect. You go and you don't like it, I'll give you your money back, along with a firm promise that I will forever think poorly of your taste in music and you as a whole.

Need to know more before you go? Check out Maybe Pete's MySpace and Mark Linskey and the Streetcorner Matadors' MySpace. Or listen to Frankie and Kelly from Maybe Pete at 90.5 on your FM radio radio (or on the Internet Internet Thursday at 8 p.m.

Got it? Good. See you on Friday.


My weekend: By the numbers

Number of times I checked the weather forecast Friday night before deciding going to the Union County Music Fest Saturday morning would be a bad, wet idea: 7

Number of inches of rain that fell Saturday morning: 0.0

Number of episodes of "Outsiders Inn" I watched on Saturday: 2

Number of blocks it took for my shoes to get completely saturated when I finally left the apartment on Saturday: 1.5

Number of buckets employed on and around the stage by the Maxwell's staff in an attempt to catch water dripping from the ceiling during the Duhks' set: 3

Number of times I wanted to punch David Wright in the face for swinging at balls out of the strike zone: 5

Number of Rock and Roll Hall of Famers I saw play on Sunday: 2

Number of Shirelles songs in the two medleys that closed Shirley Alston Reeves's set: 0

Number of countries whose ethnic culinary offerings I ate on Sunday: 3

Number of days I would prefer in a weekend: 3


Red Sovine: Tinsel and Rot Hall of Famer

A little bit late on this, but Tinsel and Rot is proud to welcome Woodrow Wilson "Red" Sovine into the Tinsel and Rot Hall of Fame as its August inductee.

Sovine's country music career got its first big boost from Hank Williams, albeit in an indirect sort of way. When Williams left the "Louisiana Hayride" to join the Grand Ole Opry, Sovine took his place on the popular radio show. Sovine used that prime spot as a springboard into the country music world and soon carved out a respectable career as a honky-tonk singer.

Then came "Teddy Bear."

Sovine eventually began to specialize in trucker songs, particularly absurdly maudlin recitations, in which he would tell a tale that generally involved death, crippling accidents, lost children, or some combination thereof over light musical accompaniment. His first such hit was "Giddy-Up Go" (a trucker reunites with his son, who is now also a trucker), which was followed by "Phantom 309" (hitchhiker gets a lift from "Big Joe," who's actually the ghost of a trucker who lost his life while swerving to avoid hitting a busful of children).

But neither can top "Teddy Bear," which tells the story of a boy who can't walk and lost his father in a wreck. He turns on his dad's CB radio hoping to get some truckers on the line so that one of them might find it in his heart to drop by the boy's house and let him ride in the rig like he used to do with his dad. It is nothing short of a masterpiece, and from the second I heard it "sung" by Hank Hill on the "King of the Hill" soundtrack, I've been a Red Sovine fan. "Teddy Bear" is almost enough on its own to get Sovine into the Hall, but songs like "Colorado Kool-Aid" (also recorded by Johnny PayCheck) and "Little Rosa" (in which Sovine endearingly delivers the world's worst imitation of what I guess is an Italian) make it a no-brainer.

So, welcome, Red Sovine, to your new Home 20, the Tinsel and Rot Hall of Fame.

"Teddy Bear"

"Little Rosa"

"Faith in Santa"

"Hold Everything"

A fantastic commercial for Red's "Greatest Hits"


Catching up on the RIPs

Been meaning to post some tributes to folks who died while I was on vacation and since I've been recovering from vacation. So, here are some quick ones before too many more cool people die:

Don Helms: Amazingly, Helms remains underappreciated despite playing steel guitar on country classics like "Walkin' After Midnight," "Long Black Veil," and "Cash on the Barrelhead" and just about all of Hank Williams's hits as a member of Hank's Drifting Cowboys (he was the last surviving member). And if the memory shared in the above-linked blog is true, he nailed "Your Cheatin' Heart" in one take. Hot damn.

Buddy Harman--Like Helms, Harman, a member of Nashville's famed A-Team, isn't nearly as revered as he ought to be. Here are some songs Harman played on that might ring a bell: "Oh Pretty Woman," "Bye Bye Love," "Ring of Fire," "The Boxer," "Little Sister," "King of the Road," "Crazy," "Coal Miner's Daughter"...get it? He's certainly one of the most prolific drummers in recorded history and, at least in country circles, was one of the best.

Ronnie Drew--Owner of one of the richest voices in recorded history, Drew stood tall as one of Ireland's favorite sons. His work with the Dubliners is justly revered and with both Drew and Tommy Makem now gone, Irish music will never quite sound the same. If you're not familiar with any of Drew's work, get familiar. Here's a start. And here's another

Killer Kowalskl--Not many wrestlers get to live to the ripe old age of 81, but Kowalski did. He will forever stand as one of the most recognizable villains in wrestling history (a place cemented when he kneed off Yukon Eric's ear), and his stomach claw finishing hold was used by many, including my own father in the three seconds before I started crying during the fake wrestling matches I would initiate when I was a wee lad. Amazingly, he is an old wrestler I never met.

Don LaFontaine--It's always struck me that the best kind of fame is the kind that gives you steady work and a fair share of respect from your peers but keeps you unknown to the general public. And that's certainly the kind of fame that LaFontaine, the "Trailer King" had. His voiceovers are instantly recognizable, but until the Geico and Lotto commercials, you'd've been hard pressed to find anyone that could pick him out of a lineup. Movie trailers won't be the same without him.

And of course there was Isaac Hayes and Bernie Mac, but I've gotta stop this at some point.

Rest in peace, fellas.


Jerry Reed RIP

Jerry Reed passed away Monday at the age of 71, due to complications from emphysema.

Many people know Reed best as Cledus "Snowman" Snow in the "Smokey and the Bandit" movies, but that's only a small part of the Jerry Reed Story (and, to be honest, I don't think I've ever seen one of the "Smokey" movies all the way through). He was a world-class guitar picker, envied by many and duplicated by none, and was good enough to get the Chet Atkins Seal of Approval. Atkins helped Reed get his start in Nashville in the 1960s, and according to Wikipedia (which, let's face it, never lies) Atkins thought Reed was a better fingerstyle player than he was. Whatever the case, the two worked together many times, including on the CDs "Me and Chet" and "Me and Jerry" and on the DVD "In Concert at The Bottom Line," which it occurs to me I should buy.

For my money, though, it's "When You're Hot, You're Hot" that brings my fondest memory of Reed, as it's one of those songs that I will never tire of (sadly, the only time I saw Reed in concert, he didn't do it...I briefly considered staying for the second show in the hopes that he would do it then). And if it had been sung by anyone other than Reed, I probably would've gotten tired of it pretty quickly. Reed's drawl oozes out of the speakers when you hear it, just as it did on "Amos Moses" and "She Got the Goldmine (I Got the Shaft)," numbers two and three on my list of Jerry Reed favorites. When you hear a Jerry Reed song (at least the noninstrumentals), you know it's a Jerry Reed song about two seconds in. And once you know that, you can be pretty sure it's gonna be good.

RIP, Jerry. Thanks for the music.

"When You're Hot, You're Hot" in "Groovy Vision":

Doing "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" with Chet Atkins and Pat Bergeson at The Bottom Line:

"Amos Moses"

"She Got the Goldmine (I Got the Shaft)"


What I Liked About August

*Lake Harmony and Jim Thorpe, PA
*Levon Helm's Midnight Ramble, Woodstock, NY
*The reaction from the bar downstairs that lets me know how the Mets are doing when I'm away from the TV
*Big Pink, West Saugerties, NY

*Huey Lewis and the News, Asser Levy/Seaside Park, Brooklyn, NY
*Maybe Pete's victory in the "Love, Hope, Strength" contest
*Coconut Mango Good Karma(tm) Organic Rice Divine
*Pete Seeger, Lincoln Center South Plaza, NYC

*Pizza, pins, and a piano, NYC/Union City, NJ
*Campbell Brothers, Damrosch Park, NYC
*Bernard MacLaverty's "Visiting Takabuti"
*The willingness of people with cars to drive me places